They’ll go to the moon
to places even telescopes can’t see.
But when will no one go hungry
or fear others
or push them around,
or steal their hope?
Because I responded to this question
I’m called a Communist.
Nazim Hikmet (1958)
A combination of factors over the last 18 months – my lack of enthusiasm for Hilary Clinton as a candidate, the election of Donald Trump as President, the rapid growth in wealth disparity in America, and the ever increasing prospect of a high growth, jobless future economy – has jump started my search for a new political and economic identity.
So I did some reading.
Polyani’s book forced me to ask myself why I thought we lived in an economic model that was a tide which lifted all boats, and I realized – very quickly – that we don’t. His clear – yet dense – treatise on the imperfections of our economic & political system helped me start to build a framework and a new political identity built around Socialism.
But Socialism is a bad word in American politics. I think this comes from misinformation, and charged rhetoric. So – I wanted to start a different conversation where we can share in this framework together, and have a better informed conversation about the America we want to build in the 21st Century.
What is Socialism?
American Socialism is a theory that proposes that, at the same time, we maximize wealth and minimize poverty. American Socialism is a system that says that American citizens should bear the cost of minimizing poverty while guaranteeing the integrity of free and dynamic markets that make Americans rich. With Socialism, a business, corporation, or market that can only exist by maintaining, or expanding, poverty, will fail (primarily because it cannot support basic costs that a Socialist society would demand). A recent example –
- A local bookstore shuts down because it cannot afford to pay its workers a livable wage – This is the right outcome for a Socialist because the bookstore can only exist if the people who work there are willing to work multiple jobs to make ends meet.
What is Socialism NOT?
- Socialism and Communism are not the same – Communism removes the ability to accrue wealth by ensuring that all wealth is redistributed to the maximum ability of the state. Communists believe less in the power of the market, and instead focus on the power of the commune. Much of the Left in Europe is Communist. The Left of Nancy Pelosi politicians in America are not communists – they are Socialists.
- Nor is Socialism and a Centrally Planned economy the same – Socialists in America do not seek central planning of the economy. They believe in the power of the Market. They also believe that the Government unfairly favors Corporations at the expense of workers, and wish to see that imbalance right-sized.
What would be different if America were more Socialist?
- Creative destruction wouldn’t destroy local communities at the expense of innovation – Today when we have innovation – let’s say a new trade agreement that allows less expensive t-shirts to come into America from Mexico – there are winners and losers as discrete groups. In a Socialist society, the winners in that scenario are no longer discrete and disconnected from the losers. Instead, they are responsible, through taxes on their innovation and a government who is committed to retraining, retooling, and reinvesting in the losing community, for ensuring that their innovation IS a tide that lifts all boats.
- People wouldn’t die because they were too poor to live – 40% of Americans can’t find $400 in the event of an emergency. 1/3 of the fundraisers on GoFundMe are for healthcare costs. A huge portion of Americans are too poor to live, and a parking ticket, a malfunctioning car, a missed bus, or a sick child is the difference between a roof over their head and living on the streets. The wealthiest nation in the world shouldn’t have such a huge part of its population living at such a precipice.
- Citizens United would be overturned – And with it, the impact of corporations, unions, lobbyists, and PACs in our government at all levels would be reduced. We the People would once again be the influential force behind the politicians who we elect. This comes from both a belief that the individual citizen must be as powerful as the Corporation as well as a belief that protecting the ballot box is a key function of a successful democracy.
Why does 21st Century America need an American brand of Socialism?
One key thing above all else pushed me in this direction – if we are going to reap the benefits of more technology and automation to build a wealthier society at the expense of jobs (which means at the expense of healthcare, housing, and education for almost all Americans), then we need a political system that will catch the disenfranchised, and give them the opportunity to stand back up.
And as we continue to increase the ability of machinery and technology to accomplish our jobs, we increasingly build a society that is wealthier (everyday things cost less), but in which fewer can participate (no jobs).
A more Socialist America would support the market movement towards innovation while ensuring that there was a path to dignity for those who are now replaced by technology (which will increasingly be white collar workers, and not just their manufacturing and construction counterparts)